Estimating the Impact of Seasonal Truck Shortages on the Movement of Time-Sensitive, Perishable Products: Transportation cost Minimization Approach

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

infrastructure - vehicle, land use - impacts, mode - rail


Washington (State), Trucks, Trucking, Truck transportation, State of Washington, Shortages, Seasonal truck shortages, Road freight vehicles, Railways, Railroads, Perishables, Perishable cargo, Pacific Northwest, Optimization, Optimisation, Motor truck transportation, Markets, Lorries, Impacts, Heavy goods vehicles, Freight transportation, Estimating, Costs, Cost minimization, Cargo vehicles, Apples


This research focuses on the frequent and persistent problem of truck shortages for time-sensitive, perishable produce shipment out of the Pacific Northwest. Washington State is the number one apple-producing state in the United States, accounting for more than 2.7 million tons of apples per year valued in excess of $1 billion. However, without timely and accessible transportation to move the product from production to the consumer’s table, the value to apple producers and the state’s economy diminishes rapidly. This research aims to identify and quantify the change in total transportation cost that occurs as a result of seasonal truck shortages and associated rate increases and to provide an avenue for evaluating changes in specific destination markets, modal changes, and market competitiveness. A cost-minimizing optimization model is used to represent apple shipments from 29 producing supply points to 16 domestic markets and three international export markets over four seasons for two modes (truck and rail). Total transportation costs increase nearly $12 million as a result of truck shortages, from $245.6 million without shortages to $257.5 million under the current seasonal situation. Overall (across all seasons), the export markets of Nogales, Arizona; McAllen, Texas; and the Port of Seattle, Washington, are most affected by the truck shortages, followed by domestic markets near Seattle and San Francisco, California. The large markets of New York City, New York, and Los Angeles, California also experience relatively large increases in transportation cost per ton mile.